Story By: CAMDEN PROUD / OSWEGO SPEEDWAY – OSWEGO, NY – After a successful return to Supermodified competition this past season, division veteran Jeff West has penciled in several dates on Oswego Speedway’s 2018 schedule in which he plans to compete with his beautiful Indy Performance Composites No. 1 machine.
West, a three-time Supermodified feature winner and 1988 rookie, retired from the sport at the young age of 32 following one final full-time stint in 2000 before driving the Doug Heveron backup car in the 2003 Budweiser International Classic 200. The outside polesitter for the ‘99 Classic, ‘Westy’ now lives in Indianapolis where he is busy at work for his self owned and operated company; Indy Performance Composites.
“I came back after all these years because I can afford it,” joked West. “I never wanted to walk away from the sport, but sometimes there are life decisions that just make more sense. I decided I wanted to turn some of what I know in manufacturing into my own business and its seemed to work out for me so that’s the good part of it. If I had done what I do now ten years earlier, then maybe I would have been back a little sooner, but then again, I wouldn’t have had as much fun either. There is a give and take to all of it.”
In ten seasons, West was solid with his familiar No. 01 whenever he was in competition, driving to the aforementioned three victories along with an impressive 29 top five finishes including a runner up effort to Davey Hamilton in the 1997 International Classic.
“I retired pretty early, I was only 32 years old,” West noted. “I started racing in 1988 when I was 21 or 22, so when I did retire I had already been racing for about ten years. I have always given some thought to coming back so it’s been great. It’s a really fun experience for myself and my family.”
For his return to racing, West tabbed former crewman and fellow Supermodified winner Jerry Curran as his chief wrench and teammate when an investment was made to purchase a new Hawk Chassis from Muldoon Racing. Curran and West worked together on rebuilding and updating the car, which was debuted at the conclusion of the 2017 season.
“Back in the day, Jerry (Curran) used to work for me,” West recalled. “I’ve known him for probably thirty years. I used to build cars for him and he used to always help me when we were all racing together, so that’s how I ended up going that route. I knew he was getting kind of financially stressed and getting towards the end where he said he didn’t really want to do it as much, but I told him I wanted to, so that’s how all of this started out.”
Being that trips to Oswego tend to be few and far between for West due to the workload at his business, Jeff didn’t want to jump into something where he had to do all the physical labor on the car, although a broken part and hard crash in Classic practice last season did make for a bit of extra work for the duo. On the other hand, most of the time, West is able to arrive to the track with helmet in hand and feels comfortable hopping behind the wheel thanks to Curran’s meticulous craftsmanship.
“I wasn’t going to do this with something where I got into it and then just had to go and bust my ass all the time,” West added. “However, something did break Classic Weekend and I did bust my ass anyway, but other than that it wasn’t too bad. I knew Jerry would do a nice car and I think we have a lot of resources that can help him. He enjoys building them and does a hell of a job. He’s a good guy, a good help, and a great friend so it all means a lot when you can just show up and know that things are done right.”
After a solid debut which included turning laps in the sub-17 second bracket, nearly winning a heat race his second night out and then going on to finishing eighth in the 50-lap main event on Track Championship Night, West has put more upgrades into the No. 1 over the offseason which includes an independent front suspension setup courtesy of Hawk Jr. Chassis.
“When we bought the car from Muldoon it was brand new,” West stated. “Jerry got right to work and did an awesome job. Right now we just had Joey (Hawksby) put the independent (front suspension) In it, so that should help us out a lot more too. The car was good and I think we could have won races with it last year had I got the chance to run a little more. We had motor issues to start with, but the night that everything finally went well for us the thing was strong.”
Notably, West has come close to winning a few International Classics in his day, including in 1998 when he broke while leading, ultimately handing the victory over to Bentley Warren. However, Jeff isn’t coming back to avenge a Classic win, he just loves racing Supermodifieds at the Oswego Speedway.
“Sure, being there at the end to win the Classic or getting back to victory lane would be awesome,” West offered. “Even though we wrecked it real bad in Classic practice Friday, I had a great car that could’ve done pretty well on Sunday, but I made a mistake. I think I was pushing too hard on the first lap trying to pass everybody and then we ended up in the fence. It’s a capable car, so at the end of the day, we are going to have a good time, be competitive, and wherever the chips fall, they do. When I left that place I told myself it doesn’t owe me anything. Do I feel I should’ve won the Classic a few times? Absolutely. But was it meant to be? Absolutely not.”
More important than anything, West cares about the ‘Big O’ and he wants to see the Supermodifieds thrive for many years to come. Jeff said, “Oswego has done me well over the years and I want to see the class do well too. We’ve seen a decline a little bit, so if I can help with that, I’m all in. I don’t want Oswego going anywhere in my lifetime, that’s for sure. If I can do that, have some fun and win some races while we’re at it, I’m all in there too.”
So, how close is the No. 1 to being race ready, how much will we see Jeff on the track, and when will West’s first race of 2018 be? Expect to see the black Indy Performance Composites piece trackside beginning in the month of June.
“Things are definitely in good shape,” West said. “We are pretty much ready to go now. I can’t be there for the Opener with everything going on at my business here in Indy, but we will be there in June and probably quite a bit in July and August. My son will be playing hockey in Boston during that time, so I will be up in the area. This is all about having fun, so we are going to do some running and just see how things go. The goal for both of us is to win races, but the ultimate goal is to have fun. The equipment is there, so if we can win races then that’s great too because the competitiveness never goes away. I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”
Oswego Speedway’s 68th Annual Opener is set to take place on Saturday, May 26. The program will feature Jim Shampine Memorial Twin 50’s for the Novelis Supermodifieds along with a 35-lap Tony White Memorial main event for the Pathfinder Bank SBS division. To purchase tickets, please call the box office at (315)-342-0646.